To honor the many frontline workers who have worked diligently [...]
By Ashley Kring|2021-01-20T12:05:05-05:00January 20th, 2021|Categories: COVID-19, News|Comments Off on United Way of Midland County and The Charles J. Strosacker Foundation Partner to Thank Frontline Workers While Supporting Local Businesses: “It’s a Win-Win”
By Ashley Kring|2020-12-11T13:55:03-05:00December 11th, 2020|Categories: Campaign, News|Comments Off on Community Shows Up “Stronger Together” and Exceeds Goal, Raising More Than $5 Million for United Way
It was 3:30 a.m. when Charles Colley got the call. He and his family needed to evacuate their Midland rental home as soon as possible. The flood waters weren’t just on their way—they were here.
“It was a scary night,” Colley said. “My wife [then fiancé], our two daughters and I lived on a dead-end street, and it was going to flood. We made the trek through the woods carrying our belongings on our back with our three dogs.”
The water didn’t waste any time doing its damage.
“We had to walk through the woods because the water had already covered the road,” Colley said. “When we got to the other side of the road and looked back, we couldn’t even see our house because of the water. It was on top of the roof.”
The hits kept coming. He learned his business—Canine Cuts and Clips—was also devastated by the flood. The venue where he and his fiancé were supposed to get married was damaged.
In one night, Colley’s life completely changed.
He and his family stayed in a car for four days. His brother took them in for a few weeks.
“With no money, you don’t know where to go,” he said. “Luckily we found a friend with a house for rent, so we stayed there.”
Still, Colley and his family weren’t sure how to fix the damage to their former rental home and belongings. Everything was gone.
“We felt like nobody could help us,” Colley explained. “Our house was a rental, so FEMA denied us assistance.”
Then Colley called United Way of Midland County.
As part of the Long-Term Disaster Recovery Group (LTDRG), United Way of and numerous others are dedicated to connecting the community with the many resources available to those impacted by the flood.
“We are all stronger when we work together,” said Holly Miller, president and CEO of United Way of Midland County. “This work requires strong collaboration. It’s the entire community working together to fill gaps, solve problems and be there for each other. We have a long history of helping our community unite to improve lives.”
Colley got connected with Raegan Schultz, one of the Disaster Case Managers (DCMs) for the Long-Term Disaster Recovery Group. She listened to Colley’s situation. She stepped in to advocate and help navigate the recovery process with Colley. She also assisted with his application for an SBA loan for his small dog grooming business.
There’s not a lot of assistance for renters and limited assistance from FEMA, Schultz explained.
“Their FEMA assistance didn’t come through, so we made a funding request to the Long-Term Disaster Recovery Funding Group and they came through,” Schultz said. “It’s been powerful to see how resilient our neighbors are able to be. People don’t always realize how a community can step in to support its neighbors, but watching them receive it and feel so grateful—none of it is expected and it is so appreciated.”
Each week, the Long-Term Disaster Recovery Funding Group comes together to review specific requests and hear details from the DCMs about unmet needs for consideration. United Way and the Midland Area Community Foundation are the two key funders, but others help with clarifying questions, offering ideas as well as proving additional ideas and resources to ensure we are being strong stewards of community dollars.
Because of that collaboration, the LTDRG was able to provide life-changing resources and support. Funds from the Midland Area Community Foundation supported the Colley family with the purchase of essential household furniture (beds, mattresses, sofas, dining room set, etc.) and clothing for the family of four. Pivot Point, a local nonprofit ministry, provided the family with a stove and fridge.
United Way also connected the Colleys with the Bottomless Toy Chest organization—which provided holiday gifts for the family—and a generous Dow donation of winter coats and clothes.
Colley said he is so grateful for support from these organizations. He said without disaster case management, his family would be homeless.
“This was a life-saver,” Colley said. “If it wasn’t for Midland and the Long-Term Disaster Recovery Group, I don’t know what we’d do. They and United Way are an angel on someone’s shoulders. They aren’t doing anything for themselves. It’s all for the community.”
Nowadays, Colley said he has hope thanks to the community.
“It’s been amazing to have people help us out and know people care. We are feeling comfortable now and my kids have a place to sleep.”
To honor the many frontline workers who have worked diligently to help heal our community, The Charles J. Strosacker Foundation and United Way of Midland County came together to show the community’s gratitude in an innovative way.
They collaborated to send out notes of gratitude along with over $100,000 in gift cards to local businesses. Recipients included nonprofits and the many frontline employees at nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
“Our founder, Charles Strosacker, would have been extremely supportive of this investment in our community and recognition of the commitment of these frontline workers. The Foundation wanted to identify the hard work and compassion our nursing home caretakers do every day,” said Jim Borin, treasurer of Strosacker Foundation
Over 860 frontline workers at 15 nursing homes and assisted living facilities received gift cards, as well as 650 employees at 23 partner agencies.
“We can’t thank United Way and The Charles J. Strosacker Foundation enough for the generous gift for our essential workers at Midland King’s Daughters home,” said Becky Peters, Director of Social Work & Activities at Midland King’s Daughters Home. “What a Christmas blessing you have been to us. Some of the staff teared up when they opened it. I truly love my job—the elderly are my passion—but it’s been difficult to stay positive during this pandemic while watching staff and residents so sad. This was a much-needed cheer booster for us. Thank you again!”
United Way distributed gift cards from these local businesses:
Live Oak Coffeehouse
Jack’s Fruit Market
Molasses Smokehouse + Bar
Grove Tea Lounge
Eastman Party Store
“This project was a win-win,” said Nancy Money, Director of Community Impact at United Way of Midland County. “Not only were nonprofit employees thanked for the hard work and investment they make in our community every day, but local businesses—who are struggling in these challenging times—were also supported. We purchased 100 gift cards from a business who later said that we would never know the difference that this made for their business this Christmas.”
During the holiday season, United Way also partnered with MidMichigan Health to create the Adopt-A-Unit for Frontline Workers volunteer opportunity. Families, groups and businesses provided a basket or box of goodies for over 900 MidMichigan Health employees, including those working on all nursing units, Respiratory Care, Environmental Services, Transport and MidMichigan Emergency Medical Services.
Those who adopted a unit include:
The Laurie VanSlaars Family
Primrose Retirement Community of Midland
Casey Huffman and fellow MidMichigan Health co-workers
Julia Kepler and Friends
Three Rivers Corporation
John’s Episcopal Church
Jayme Larose and co-workers at Members First Credit Union
The Kim Gleason Family
Memorial Presbyterian Church
United Way of Midland County
Midland High School Student Council
The Ashley Baker Family
Sarah Opperman and Friends
First Baptist Church
They gifted employees with items such as festive headbands, hand lotion, lip balm, crossword puzzles/Sudoku/word searches, fruit, healthy snacks, gum, vitamin water, mini Christmas trees, and cards and notes of gratitude.
“This project has made MidMichigan Medical Center – Midland employees feel the real spirit of the season,” said Diana Brookens, manager of volunteers for MidMichigan Medical Center – Midland. “The gifts were so graciously accepted and the staff was clearly touched by the generosity of our community. We thank all of those who helped make the season bright for us.”
These efforts are one of the multiple ways that United Way aspires to continue to show appreciation for the community in 2021.
“The frontline workers in our community are true heroes,” said Holly Miller, president and CEO of United Way of Midland County. “These gratitude projects were a way for us to say, ‘We see you, we hear you, we care about you.’ They continue to spend countless hours away from their families in order to help our families get better, and we are beyond grateful.”
United Way of Midland County and Midland County Habitat for Humanity are teaming up for reBuild Together. This collaborative initiative will help rebuild and revitalize homes impacted by the 2020 dam failure. We will be following this journey with video interviews from project leads, homeowners, volunteers, and more. Check out this interview with Holly Miller and Jennifer Chappel to hear more about the collaboration and see the house arriving.
In a year of unique hurdles and hardship, Midland County residents did not buckle. Instead, they rallied around the community and showed their strength in action, which is reflected in this year’s United Way of Midland County community campaign results.
United Way is thrilled to announce they have exceeded their $4.5M goal, raising a nearly record-breaking $5,034,114, or 112% of the campaign goal.
“In the face of a global pandemic and historic floods, this year’s campaign results are simply remarkable,” exclaimed Board President Jim Nigro. “It really speaks to the character of our Midland community: the most caring and giving county in America.”
Nigro believes that people and organizations recognize United Way is well-positioned to help those in need.
“And they responded with their pocketbooks,” he said. “It’s a powerful combination of individuals, organizations, companies (large and small), foundations, agency partners, United Way staff, board, and volunteers, all rising to the occasion and contributing to our mutual success. It makes me extremely proud of this little community with a gigantic heart.”
With a theme of “Stronger Together,” the community campaign was led by campaign co-chairs The Reverend Doctor Wallace H. “Wally” Mayton, Associate Pastor at Memorial Presbyterian Church, and Sara Eastman, local attorney and proud military veteran. This dynamic duo served as the first co-chairs in United Way of Midland County’s history. They both shared their sentiments about the exciting results
“We are humbled and overwhelmed,” Eastman said. “In the aftermath of an evolving pandemic, record unemployment, unprecedented stay-at-home orders, dam failures, flooding, home and business loss, and the uncertainty of what the future would hold, our community came together with warmth, generosity and compassion for their fellow Midlanders in support of the 2020 United Way Campaign. Dedicated volunteers, community-driven area businesses and leaders from all backgrounds and opportunity lined the United Way Campaign trail each week making a difference. I was grateful to co-chair with Midland treasure, Wally Mayton, who is notorious for his decades of inspiring and heartfelt leadership. Wally’s humble regard for our neighbors, the United Way team’s ability to collaborate effectively, and our community’s spirit of compassion, sacrifice and endurance showed us every day that we are “stronger together” in 2020 and beyond as we continue to inspire hope and create opportunities for a better tomorrow.”
Mayton added his thanks to the community for supporting its neighbors.
“Sara and I thank the Midland community for its generous response to the campaign appeal, and we now take a giant leap into a new year and hold the assurance that we shall neglect no one in need,” Mayton said.
Throughout the campaign, Mayton and Eastman traveled around Midland County for a special video series called “Wally & Sara on the Campaign Trail.” The co-chairs visited various Midland “hot spots” to share campaign news and interview those who have stepped up to show their support. The videos were shared weekly on United Way of Midland County’s Facebook page.
“Sharing the campaign trail with Sara Eastman is one landmark experience,” Mayton shared. “She represents the best for our future. We greeted and learned the hearts of our neighbors. We listened. We heard messages of hope and action. We commend United Way of Midland County with its partners, its staff, and its mission. We raise our team banner high. It reads we are ‘Stronger Together!’ We have proven it.”
Generous support poured in from every corner of the community, from large corporations to schools, small businesses, local government agencies, nonprofits, individuals and retirees. In total, 185 organizations supported the United Way campaign—and they did not let the pandemic stop them being creative and having fun. In the midst of stay-at-home orders that required many to swap their office environment for virtual meetings, organizations raised nearly $70,000 in digital special events.
The numbers speak to the heart of this community, said Holly Miller, president and CEO of United Way of Midland County.
“We had over 5,200 individual donors with 63% maintaining or increasing their gift from last year—and that is amidst a flood and pandemic,” Miller said. “This year’s campaign is unprecedented. We could not be more grateful and humble for the countless ways our community stepped up to support each other. Every single gift matters and will be invested collectively to improve the lives of our neighbors. At the end of the day, we’re all people helping people, and it is amazing to see our community’s comeback story as it is written. This campaign is just another reflection of our deep roots of care for community.”
The giving spirit of the community reverberated throughout Midland County. With generous matching grants and a clear message of need, over 1,220 new donors were inspired to give, while 28% increased their gift from last year with an average increase of more than $200.
Miller added that United Way is just getting started and looks ahead to 2021 with intentionality, stewardship and hope.
“Because of our community’s generosity, we will be working with our many partners to escalate impact to respond to the increasing needs in our community,” Miller said. “There is strength in numbers. We are, and always will be, stronger together.”
To learn more about the impact of our community’s generous support, visit unitedwaymidland.org.